The HillBenders Present The Who's Tommy: A Bluegrass Opry, with special guest Sarah Borges.
45 years after its original release, this classic of classic rock has now been fully realized as a full length bluegrass tribute featuring Springfield, Missouri’s The HillBenders. Conceived and produced by SXSW co-founder and longtime musician/producer Louis Jay Meyers, this Bluegrass Opry brings a new perspective to Tommy while paying total respect to its creators.
Originally composed by guitarist Pete Townshend as a rock opera that tells the story about a deaf, dumb and blind boy, including his experiences with life and the relationship with his family. The original album has sold 20 million copies and has been inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame for «historical, artistic and significant value». In 2003, Rolling Stone magazine ranked Tommy number 96 on its list of the 500 greatest albums of all time.
Meyers had been looking for the right band to pull off this high wire bluegrass approach for several decades and The HillBenders are the right band. With a perfect mix of virtuoso musicianship and rock star vocals, The HillBenders bring Pete Townshend’s original vision to life in a new and exciting way.
It’s amazing to hear banjo, dobro, mandolin, bass, and guitar bring the same energy and vision to Tommy as The Who did with a full rock band and orchestra.
The HillBenders are one of the few bluegrass groups that recognize their ability to bridge the gap between the common music consumer and the bluegrass genre, selecting material that defies any hillbilly stigmas. With their widely varied influences, they are trying to bring to bluegrass songs that unify. “We wanted to pair bluegrass with the other music we grew up with —rock and roll!” say HillBender Nolan Lawrence.
Sarah Borges has spent the last decade touring, learning and transforming from Americana chanteuse to American music journeywoman. Her sound remains as eclectic as ever, representing what Borges likes to call “the sum total sound of my record collection”: a little bit twangy, some kind of cowpunk and a whole lot of hearfelt rock and roll.
Together with her band the Broken Singles and also as a solo artist, Borges has logged some serious touring hours in almost all of the great 48 as well as in Europe. She’s been nominated for an Americana Music Award, won multiple Boston Music Awards, and has had songs featured in The Sons of Anarchy and The Night Shift.
Most importantly though, Sarah Borges has earned a reputation as an immensely engaging live performer. Audience participation, storytelling and spontaneity add a unique element to a show that features stellar songs and Borges’s tough and tender voice.